Another year, another 10,000 or so wines, and another Top 100. It all sounds much the same, and in one sense it is, but the grape and wine glut has been capturing plenty of headlines. For winemakers it has not been a comfortable year; for some grapegrowers it has been disastrous. But then so is the prolonged drought for farmers and graziers in significant parts of Queensland and New South Wales, with a likely El Nino pointing to another hot, dry summer.
None of this adversely impacts on the consumer. In real terms, prices have never been cheaper for the beverage/fighting varietal sector of the market. Cleanskins and hidden labels abound, as does deep discounting of brands which ought to be immune to such predatory behaviour.
Whether all this is in the long term interest of winemakers, distributors, retailers and consumers is a complicated question for another day. In the meantime the sun is shining, so let's make hay. Indeed, I could have easily chosen five more entirely different Top 100s across a similar range of styles, varieties and price points.
For if Australia was to face over-supply, the high quality of the 2004, '05 and '06 vintages gives opportunities for everyone in the supply chain through to you, the consumer. The 2004 vintage has produced a stellar array of red wines; while there were some initial reservations due to generous yields (large berries and large bunches) the wines have evolved splendidly. Thus 21 of the 40 red wines are from this vintage.
Other than a broad aim of endeavouring to provide a balanced selection of what is out there in the market place, I do not approach the tastings with any preconceived ideas. Moreover, I try not to rewrite history, preferring to let the cards fall where they may.
So it is that blends of sauvignon blanc and semillon are the most numerous in the under $20 white section, but fall away dramatically in the $20 and over group, which is quite rightly dominated by chardonnay. The under $20 red section has a Joseph's Coat of varietals, shiraz viognier the leader in a bunched field, but with only one example in the over $20 group. Here shiraz is utterly dominant, with the great 2002 vintage ranging alongside 2004.
This year sees the return of food matches at the urging of the editor. Please see them as no more than suggestions or ideas, and think laterally. Remember that a good choice on a warm summer day may be anything but in winter. If there is to be an outrageous generalisation to replace white meat/white wine, and red meat/red wine rule, it is that chilled white wines and roses suit cold dishes (and south east Asian cuisine) better than most reds, the latter firing with hearty winter fare.
You will also find the alcohol of each wine specified, likewise the closure. The standard drinks disclosure on each bottle is as often ignored as it is misunderstood: the lower the alcohol the fewer the standard drinks, and vice versa. I shall not dwell on the subject of closures, except to say that 52% of the 80 table wines were finished with screwcaps, and that the percentage will be higher again next year.
Key to closure abbreviation - C Cork, QC Quality Cork, D Diam, P ProCork, S Screwcap, SY Synthetic, TT Twin-Top Cork, Z Zork
Whites Under $20
Having drawn attention to the number of blends of semillon and sauvignon blanc, I should confess to some personal bias which has meant no pinot gris came close to the selection. The eminent UK journalist and industry observer Robert Joseph recently quipped that Evian and pinot gris were tasted blind, and Evian won.
McWilliam's Inheritance Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2006
89 points $6.95
It is no wonder these blends have secured so much shelf space by appealing to the ABC Club (Anything But Chardonnay), but offering more in response than (say) pinot gris, even at this giveaway price. It is spotlessly clean, crisp and fresh with touches of gooseberry and lychee through to a lively finish.
Drink Now, with Designer Fish and Chips, 14° alc, S, Riverina, NSW
Gapsted Tobacco Road Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2006
92 points $12
Gapsted nailed the Tobacco Road in 2005 with sauvignon blanc the major component; here the varieties are reversed but not the value for money. Spotlessly clean, it has an attractive mix of citrus, stone fruit and grapefruit over a base of herb and mineral from the semillon.
Drink Now, with Tom Yum Thai Soup, 12.5° alc, S, Alpine Valley/King Valley, Vic
Peter Lehmann Barossa Riesling 2005
94 points $12
The winemaking team at Peter Lehmann knows exactly how to leverage the grape grower loyalties created over three decades. Pale straw-green, the wine has a scented, flowery bouquet, with lively and long citrus and tropical fruit flavours. A gold medal winner at the Sydney Royal Wine Show 2006.
Drink Now-2009, with Sashimi of blue fin tuna, S, 12° alc, Barossa Valley, SA
Yalumba Y Series Sauvignon Blanc 2006
91 points $12
Punches well above its price class, leading the Y series varietals most years, this being no exception. Pale straw-green, it has pristine varietal aromas of cut grass and spice, the light but vibrant palate with citrus fruit and a clean, brisk, dry finish.
Drink Now, with Seafood Antipasto, S, 11° alc, South Australia
Tahbilk Marsanne 2006
93 points $12.95
Some of Tahbilk's plantings of this Rhone Valley white variety date back to 1927, and those vines are believed to be the oldest in the world. Light straw-green, with aromas of cake, honey, melon and spice, then a long, harmonious palate, with a gold-plated guarantee to develop honeysuckle and gentle toast as it ages over the next 10-plus years.
Drink Now-2016, with Salmon Mousse, S, 13.5° alc, Nagambie Lakes, Vic
Charles Sturt University Chardonnay 2005
94 points $13
Orange and Tumbarumba are the foremost regions in New South Wales for the production of cool climate chardonnay, indeed chardonnay of any style. Pale green-straw, perfumed peach and citrus blossom aromas lead into an elegant palate with fresh melon and nectarine fruit, a small percentage of barrel ferment oak adding to an excellent finish.
Drink Now-2009, with Salmon Gravlax, S, 13.2° alc, Orange, NSW
Rutherglen Estates The Alliance Marsanne Viognier 2005
90 points $14.95
Inspired by the white wines of the Rhone Valley, this blend of 70% marsanne and 30% viognier works well, the acidity of the marsanne and the broader, juicier and richer spectrum of the flavours of the viognier combining synergistically. A trophy and gold medal winner at the Cowra Wine Show 2006, it is a classic drink now or later proposition.
Drink Now-2008, with Smoked Chicken Salad , S, 14.5° alc, Rutherglen, Vic
Tel (02) 6032 7999
Bellarmine Chardonnay 2005
94 points $15
While the jury is out on the suitability of the Pemberton region for pinot noir, there is no doubting its capacity to produce delicious white wines. This opens with a touch of spicy oak on the bouquet before intense and lively nectarine and grapefruit flavours take over on the very long palate and aftertaste.
Drink Now-2011, with Grilled Marron with Beurre Blanc, Pemberton, S, 13.6° alc, Pemberton, WA
Brookland Valley Verse 1 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2006
94 points $15.90
Margaret River and the Great Southern of Western Australia produce semillon sauvignon blancs with, so it seems, consummate ease, even in difficult vintages. This is another first class example, with a zesty, fresh, crisp mix of tropical fruit and more herbaceous notes; good line and length and a bright, crisp finish.
Drink Now-2008, with Poached Scallops in White Wine Sauce, S, 12.5°alc, Margaret River, WA
Brown Brothers Whitlands Sauvignon Blanc 2005
94 points $16
At an elevation of 770-800 metres, Whitlands marks the upper end of the King Valley, bravely pioneered by Brown Brothers between 1981 and 1983. This is uncompromisingly cool climate country, ideal for the variety; the wine beckons with spotless passionfruit and gooseberry aromas and has great line and balance, the vibrant gooseberry fruit lengthened by lemony acidity.
Drink Now-2007, with Salad Nicoise, S, 12.5° alc, King Valley, Vic
Tyrrell's Lost Block Semillon 2006
94 points $16.95
Tyrrell's regards this wine as a (relatively) early drinking style; I had a bottle of '96 the other night, and it was still full of life. Typically for young semillon with only the slightest touch of colour; very precise lemon and cut grass aromas and flavours run through to a lingering, fruit-driven, but dry finish.
Drink Now-2016, with Cold Balmain Bugs, S, 11° alc, Hunter Valley, NSW
Majors Lane Semillon 2005
94 points $17
Deservedly won a gold medal a the Hunter Valley Wine Show 2006, standing up to wines up to eight years older and at the peak of their power. The fresh, slatey bouquet leads into a tightly focused, lemon-accented palate, the long finish and lingering aftertaste revolving around the bright acidity.
Drink 2009-2015, with Bruschetta with Fetta and Tomato, S, 10.3° alc, Hunter Valley, NSW
Castle Rock Estate Riesling 2005
94 points $18
Vertical tastings over the years have shown time and again how Castle Rock's rieslings blossom with bottle age. This wine has a degree of precocity: after a powdery/talcy/spicy bouquet, the wineit exploded explodes on the palate, with a mix of citrus and more tropical fruit flavours, then crunchy acidity on a long finish.
Drink 2008-2018, with Szechwan Stir-Fried Prawns, S, 13° alc, Porongurup, WA
Narkoojee Trafalgar Chardonnay 2004
95 points $18
Former lecturer in civil engineering and extremely successful winemaker Harry Friend changed horses in 1994 to take control of the family vineyard and winery, and hasn't missed a beat since. Glowing yellow-green, the wine seamlessly weaves beautiful grapefruit and nectarine through high quality oak, the flavours building through the length of the palate.
Drink Now-2011, with Seafood risotto, C, 13.5° alc, Gippsland
Radford Dale Riesling 2005
95 points $18
One of the exciting newcomers to the scene, even though Ben Radford is a very experienced Flying Winemaker, and part of the estate riesling is 75 years old. Light straw-green, the wine has fine and elegant blossom aromas, a long, intense, yet delicate lime and apple palate, and perfect acidity to close.
Drink Now-2015, with Blue Swimmer Crab with Lemon Pepper, S, 12? alc, Eden Valley, SA
Tel (08) 8565 3256
Carbunup Crest Chardonnay 2005
94 points $18.25
Carbunup Crest, owned by three families and under the direction of Kris Meares, has a proud track record of producing high quality wines at low prices. An elegant wine, perfectly weighted and proportioned, its melon, apple and nectarine fruit is supported and lengthened by very good acidity and subtle oak.
Drink Now-2010, with Salmon Risotto, S, 13.6? alc, Margaret River, WA
Harewood Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2006
95 points $19
Owner-winemaker James Kellie seems to have a special empathy with this blend (and some very good grape sources). An array of aromas from snow peas to gooseberry and passionfruit are mirrored on the palate, which has an outstanding finish and lingering aftertaste.
Drink Now-2008, with Grilled Barramundi, S, 12? alc, Denmark, WA
Longview Vineyard My Fat Goose Semillon 2005
94 points $19.50
Former Two Dogs founder/owner Duncan MacGillivray has quickly become an important grapegrower in the Adelaide Hills, keeping the pick of the crop for Longview. This is an impressive wine, with tangy, vibrant herb and citrus flavours augmented by a touch of French oak, adding a dimension to the texture and finish.
Drink Now-2013, with Fresh Asparagus and Hollandaise Sauce, S 12.3? alc, Adelaide Hills, SA
O'Leary Walker Watervale Riesling 2006
94 points $19.95
Produced from 45-year-old vines, a yearly companion to the Polish Hill River wine, the latter more effusive, this wine more classic. Slate, mineral and citrus run through a tight and focussed palate, great acidity investing the wine with exceptional length.
Drink 2009-2019, with Chinese-style Stir-Fried Abalone , S, 12.5? alc, Clare Valley, SA
Stella Bella Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2006
95 points $19.95
It was an unusually cool, and hence late, vintage in all parts of Western Australia, and the white wines — which were picked before the rain — are excellent. This is a classic wine, elegant and restrained, with perfect balance and structure to the mix of herbs, grass and small green fruits.
Drink Now-2008, with Grilled Scampi, S, 12.5? alc, Margaret River, WA
Whites Over $20
The nine chardonnays in this group are not oaky, peachy and alcoholic, and should be appreciated for the way they combine elegance with varietal fruit flavour. The seven rieslings demonstrate why Jancis Robinson in the massive Oxford Companion to Wine argues riesling is the greatest white variety because it so precisely reflects the terroir in which it is grown, and (unlike great chardonnay) requires no winemaking intervention.
Ferngrove Cossack Riesling 2006
95 points $20
While the history of this wine isn't especially long, it glitters with trophies and gold medals, underlining the bond between riesling and the Frankland River terroir. Spotlessly clean, floral apple blossom and lime aromas lead into a palate of exceptional length and intensity to its citrus and green apple flavours.
Drink Now-2021, with Cold Smoked Salmon, S, 12? alc, Frankland River, WA
Stella Bella Sauvignon Blanc 2006
96 points $21
Janice McDonald is one of the great winemakers of her generation, thanks to ferocious attention to detail and a top class palate. Light straw-green, voluminous floral (but not the least bit sweaty) aromas lead into a silky smooth, sensual palate with just enough minerally acidity to tighten and freshen the finish.
Drink Now, with Bouillabase, S, 12.5? alc, Margaret River, WA
Yalumba Viognier 2005
94 points $21.95
While not the first to grow and make viognier in Australia (Mornington Peninsula's Elgee Park has that honour), Yalumba is now its leading practitioner. This wine has abundant aromas and flavours of peach, apricot and spice, with a typical full-bodied texture and structure, but which avoids phenolics on the powerful finish.
Drink Now-2008, with Roast Pork Neck, S, 14.5? alc, Eden Valley , SA
Wilson Vineyard Polish Hill River Riesling 2006
95 points $22
I often lean towards the DJW Clare Riesling sister of this wine, but this year it was a toss up and the coin came down on the Polish Hill side. Aromas of spice and citrus lead into a finely braced and structured wine built for the long haul. Mineral and citrus flavours run right through the long, dry finish.
Drink 2010-2021, with Tapas of every kind, S, 13? alc, Clare Valley, SA
Howard Park Riesling 2006
95 points $25
A vertical tasting of 20 vintages of this wine in June 2006 left no one in any doubt about its longevity, even with the hazards of cork. Vibrant and fragrant aromas of apple, passionfruit and lime juice lead into a palate of wonderful intensity and lusciousness balanced by crisp acidity.
Drink Now-2026, with Steamed Blue Lip Mussels, S, 12? alc, Great Southern, WA
Heggies Vineyard Reserve Riesling 2001
96 points $27
This marks the 20th vintage of a very distinguished wine, which on this occasion just shaded its sister, the 2001 Pewsey Vale Contours. Glowing green-yellow, it has just entered the prime of what will be a very long life, featuring essence of lime juice without a hint of heaviness, just pure joy.
Drink Now-2015, with Vegetarian Antipasto, S, 14? alc, Eden Valley, SA
Seppelt Drumborg Vineyard Riesling 2006
96 points $30
This wine, from the 40-year-old vineyard, has always been great, but this is surely the best yet. Intense lime and passionfruit blossom aromas, spotlessly clean, are followed by a palate of exceptional intensity and concentration, coruscating with spicy lime and grapefruit flavours. A minimum 20-, probably 30-, year future.
Drink Now-2026, with Citrus-Marinated Fish, S, 12.5? alc, Grampians, Vic
Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2006
96 points $34
It is usually a toss up between this and its sister wine from Watervale, the choice one of style rather than quality. This year the Polish Hill is a clear winner, its bell-clear apple and lime blossom aromas leading into a precise palate with its magical combination of delicacy and extreme length.
Drink Now-2021, with Fresh-cooked Pippies, S, 12.5? alc, Clare Valley, SA
Eldridge Estate of Red Hill Chardonnay 2004
96 points $35
Owner/winemaker David Lloyd has developed a first class suite of clonal selection pinot noirs, but in this year, at least, the Chardonnay comes out on top. It is intensely focused, with a seamless fusion of nectarine fruit on both bouquet and palate, then a clean, lingering finish.
Drink Now-2010, with slow-cooked Tasmanian salmon, S, 14? alc, Mornington Peninsula, Vic
Mount Pleasant Museum Elizabeth 1998
96 points $35
A re-release of the standard Elizabeth, which swept all before it at the National Wine Show in Canberra last November. Bright green-yellow, it has a great mix of youth and maturity; citrus driven, with little toast so far developing, it has perfect line and length. Cautious life span prediction due to the cork finish.
Drink Now-2008, with grilled spatchcock with lemon sauce, C, 10? alc, Hunter Valley, NSW
Shaw & Smith M3 Vineyard Chardonnay 2005
95 points $35
This classy wine receives the full treatment, hand-picked, whole bunch-pressed, barrel-fermented, lees-stirred and malolactic fermentation. Glowing yellow-green, the winemaker inputs simply serve to frame the fig, melon and nectarine fruit running through to a long finish.
Drink Now-2012, with Milk-fed Veal, S, 13.5? alc, Adelaide Hills, SA
Toolangi Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2004
95 points $35
Toolangi has lost no time in establishing its reputation, spreading its winemaking contracts across three wineries. This wine is made by Tom Carson at Yering Station, who has skilfully woven stone fruit, melon and barrel ferment inputs into a fine, intense and elegant showcase for Yarra Valley chardonnay.
Drink Now-2012, with pan-fried sweetbreads, C, 13? alc, Yarra Valley, Vic
Hardys Eileen Hardy Chardonnay 2004
96 points $38
If this wine came from a boutique producer and had won the trophy for Best White Wine at the 2005 National Wine Show, it would be far more expensive. Super-fragrant and flowery, it is fruit, rather than oak, forward, the long and intense palate with sweet citrus and nectarine fruit, plus a light web of creamy notes and fine French oak.
Drink Now-2014, with Suckling Pig, S, 13.5?, Tasmania; Yarra Valley, Vic; Tumbarumba, NSW
Crawford River Reserve Riesling 2005
96 points $39
Year-in, year-out, John Thomson makes immaculate riesling in both varietal and Reserve mode. The spotlessly clean bouquet is more immediately floral and aromatic that its (still very good) varietal sister, the palate with distilled lime juice and passionfruit, finishing with great length and perfect acidity.
Drink Now-2018, with Gazpacho, S, 13.5? alc, Henty, Vic
YarraLoch Stephanie's Dream Chardonnay 2004
96 points $40
Investment banker Stephen Wood has three vineyards spread across the Yarra Valley, each matched to specific varieties, chardonnay at a cool Upper Plenty site. This is an exceptionally elegant wine, offering melon, nectarine and grapefruit interwoven with quality French oak and creamy lees characters.
Drink Now-214, with Avocado and Prawn Salad, D, 13? alc, Yarra Valley, Vic
Clyde Park Reserve Chardonnay 2005
96 points $41
The three hectares of chardonnay on the estate are now over 25 years old, the best parcels going to make this wine. Straw-green, the very complex bouquet has a touch of entirely positive and controlled Burgundian funk, while the intense and tight palate revels in its low alcohol and subtle oak.
Drink Now-2012, with Japanese Smoked Eel, C, 13? alc, Geelong, Vic
Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon 1999
97 points $45
When one includes McWilliam's Lovedale and Brokenwood ILR Reserve Semillons there has never been a single region, single variety (red or white) wine to accumulate such a vast number of Australian wine show trophies. This is a marvellous wine, still amazingly fresh, with its lemon and lime juice flavours running through the length of its exhilarating palate and its lingering aftertaste.
Drink Now-2009, with Oysters, fresh or tempura, C, 10.3? alc, Hunter Valley, NSW
Chardonnay by Farr 2004
97 points $50
One of the small handful of wines given such high points over the past 12 months, this is a beautiful wine in every respect, elegant and precise, with superb mouthfeel and length. Gary Farr's winemaker inputs are so perfectly interwoven through the cool climate, tangy fruit there is nothing more to say.
Drink Now-2011, with Chinese-style steamed fish, C, 13? alc, Geelong, Vic
Tel (03) 5281 1979
Cullen Chardonnay 2004
95 points $55
Vanya Cullen is a highly disciplined winemaker and biodynamic grapegrower; 70% of this wine was barrel-fermented in new French oak, the same percentage taken through malolactic fermentation. Cashew and oatmeal touches to the bouquet lead into a fine fig and melon palate, the oak absorbed by the fruit and bright acidity.
Drink Now-2015, with Slow-Cooked Pork Belly, S, 14? alc, Margaret River, WA
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2003
96 points $91
Part of this vintage was sealed with corks (and showed significant variation), part with screwcaps. This note is the wine with the latter closure, gloriously tight and racey, with a fusion of stone fruit, melon and minerally acidity so complete you barely notice the French oak in which it was fermented.
Drink 2008-2018, with Margaret River wok-fried abalone, C, 14? alc, Margaret River, WA
Reds Under $20
Last year I was forced to lift the bar to $25 because of a lack of meritorious red wines under $20. There was no such problem this year; indeed, I toyed with the idea of dropping the cut off point to $15. Apart from pointing out 10 varieties are represented, I was delighted to include not one, but three, roses, and not to have to apologise for doing so.
Penfolds Rawson's Retreat Shiraz Cabernet 2006
89 points $9.95
I suppose there is no point in lamenting the use of a synthetic cork in the wine, as it is an emphatic buy today, drink tonight proposition. It has good colour, with a fresh array of blackberry, cherry and dark chocolate on the light to medium-bodied, supple palate; such oak as there is an incidental extra.
Drink Immediately, with Spaghetti Bolognese, Sy, 13.5? alc, Southeast Australia
Angove's Long Row Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
88 points $9.99
This was a highly successful red vintage over the whole of Southeast Australia across all price points, and Angove's did not waste the opportunity. The wine has both structure and blackcurrant varietal character, achieving ample length without undue extraction or reliance on residual sugar.
Drink Now, with Barbeque Lamb Chops, S, 14? alc, Riverland, SA
Houghton Cabernet Shiraz Merlot 2004
88 points $10.50
One of the most reliable red wine brands at the price, benefiting from grapes grown in many of West Australia's diverse wine regions, and sophisticated winemaking techniques. Strong red-purple, it has a medium-bodied mix of red and black fruits supported by positive oak flavours and soft tannins.
Drink Now-2009, with Braised Rabbit in Red Wine, TT, 13.5? alc, Western Australia
Heartland Vineyard Shiraz Viognier 2004
93 points $11
The property of cardiac surgeon Duncan and wife cardiac scrub nurse Libby Thomson, and nothing to do with Heartland Wines of South Australia. Very good colour, round and mouthfilling even at this (desirable) low alcohol; dark plum and black cherry fruit with a strong push from the unusually high 16% viognier component.
Drink Now-2008, with Marinated Venison, S, 12.4? alc, Hunter Valley, NSW
Kingston Estate Petit Verdot 2004
88 points $12
Petit verdot struggles for ripeness in Bordeaux, but has no such problems in sunny Australia, let alone the Riverland. This medium-bodied wine has the usual deep colour, but unusual fruit sweetness from a mix of black plum, blueberry and blackberry, finishing with soft tannins and no obvious oak.
Drink Now-2010, with Roast Ox Kidney, C, 14.5% alc, Southeast Australia
Yalumba Limited Release Sangiovese Rose 2006
93 points $12
The cheaper the sweeter is undoubtedly a guide to rose style, but (happily) not here. The fresh, light pink colour announces flowery, vibrant cherry blossom aromas, cherry persisting on a palate with excellent length, and balanced by a delicious touch of acidity on the finish.
Drink Now, with Vegetarian Antipasto, S, 13? alc, South Australia
Leasingham Bastion Shiraz Cabernet 2004
93 points $12.45
What ridiculously good value this wine always represents, never more so than this gold medal winner from the last National Wine Show. It is no shrinking violet, it is true; rather, it is full of rich, chunky, powerful blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, backed by plentiful, ripe tannins.
Drink 2008-2015, with Beef Spare Ribs, C, 13.6? alc, Clare Valley, SA
Hardys Oomoo Shiraz 2005
93 points $12.95
Oomoo means 'good' in local Aboriginal tribal dialect, and the retro label was one of the first used by founder Thomas Hardy in the nineteenth century. Its modern reincarnation has been a major success, this vintage an elegant, medium-bodied wine with a ripple of flavours through blackberry, black cherry and dark chocolate, fine tannins and a touch of oak.
Drink Now-2009, with Designer/Home Made Meat Pie, C, 14? alc, McLaren Vale, SA
Bleasdale Vineyards Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
94 points $13
The Potts family established Bleasdale over 150 years ago, ingeniously irrigating the vineyard once a year (in winter) by diverting the Bremer River through the property. In best Langhorne Creek tradition, this is a seductively soft, medium-bodied mix of black fruits, ripe tannins and vanilla oak, selling for the proverbial song.
Drink Now-2013, with Braised Lamb Shanks, S, 14? alc, Langhorne Creek, SA
De Bortoli Windy Peak Sangiovese 2005
91 points $14
The King Valley is a home away from home for many of the Italian grapegrowers and vignerons in the region, the empathy with sangiovese obvious. This wine has great colour for a usually pale variety, the light to medium-boded palate with clear-cut, fresh cherry fruit, and a long finish.
Drink Now, with Vitello Tonnata, S, 14? alc, King Valley, Vic
Chalk Hill The Procrastinator Cabernet Franc 2006
90 points $15
From every bottle sold of this single vineyard wine, 25 cents will go towards habitat reforestation of the rarest cockatoo, the Glossy Black Cockatoo, edging it past the excellent 2005 Tahbilk Cabernet Franc. It has bright and fresh redcurrant, red cherry and raspberry fruits and the finest possible tannin support.
Drink Now, with A Spring Day, S, 14? alc, McLaren Vale, SA
David Hook The Gorge Shiraz 2005
92 points $16
David Hook is the been everywhere man, from Tyrrell's to Lake's Folly to Flying Winemaker in Bordeaux, the Rhone Valley, Spain, Georgia and the US. The wine has exceptional depth of colour, with voluminous aromas of ripe plum and blackberry, and plenty of texture and tannin structure for the spicy black fruit of the palate.
Drink 2008-2018, with Beef Provencale, S 13.5? alc, Hunter Valley, NSW
Yering Station ED Rose 2006
94 points $17.50
ED stands for extra dry, and also signals a rose made from pinot noir which has a distinctly European touch to it. Salmon-pink, it is a complex wine, weaving a spicy web around cherry, and strawberry and spice fruit. Well-balanced, it is by no means painfully dry or austere, just serious.
Drink Now, with Duck consommé, S, 12.5? alc, Yarra Valley, Vic
Arakoon Full Bodied Red Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2004
93 points $18
Yes, there is a connection between the wine's name and the confronting label: it is a painting by artist Jennifer England owned by Arakoon winemaker Ray Jones. The wine? It has good colour, abundant black and red fruits, with very good structure and texture, finishing with the ripe tannins typical of the vintage.
Drink Now-2014, with Irish Stew, S, 14.5? alc, McLaren Vale, SA
Stanton & Killeen Shiraz Durif 2004
92 points $18
Rutherglen produces full-bodied red wines at the best of times; add in the impact of durif (not genetically related to petit verdot, but of similarly deep colour and flavour) and this is the result: massive and full-bodied, saturated with blackberry, licorice and bitter chocolate fruit, but happily restrained tannins.
Drink 2009-2018, with Barbecued Rump Steak, C, 14.5 alc?, Rutherglen, Vic
Tatachilla Keystone Shiraz Viognier 2004
94 points $18
Over the years, Tatachilla's Keystone has been Mr Reliable, always delivering smooth, supple reds. The advent of viognier has simply upped the ante with this deep purple-red, medium-bodied wine, and its complex, rich and satisfying cascade of black fruits running through to the finish.
Drink Now-2014, with Stir-Fried Beef, S, 14.5? alc, McLaren Vale, SA
West Cape Howe Tempranillo 2005
94 points $19
This Spanish variety holds out great promise for a range of climates in Australia, but the most in cooler regions. This wine is the best I have seen, with excellent colour, bright, fresh and lively aromas and flavours in a red fruit spectrum; overall, impressive balance and structure.
Drink Now-2010, with Roast Leg of Baby Kid, S, 14? alc, Denmark, WA
Tel (08) 9848 2959
Charles Melton Rose of Virginia 2006
95 points $19.95
Until recently Tthere is was such an inbuilt bias against rose by wine writers, judges, retailers and some consumers the points for this wine will come as a shock — too bad, I say. Vivid fuschia, it is spotlessly clean, offering a sunburst of red fruit flavours ranging from strawberries to cherries to raspberries, with very good balance and fruit sweetness.
Drink Now, with Chinese Cold Cuts, S, 12.5? alc, Barossa Valley, SA
d'Arenberg d'Arry's Original Shiraz Cabernet Grenache 2004
94 points $19.95
d'Arry Osborne turns a hale and hearty 80 in December, and for the last four decades of his life this 50/50 wine has been at the forefront. It is absolutely true to its tradition in every respect, with abundant blackberry, plum cake, spice and chocolate flavours, supported by fine, ripe tannins and restrained oak.
Drink Now-2014, with Flash-fried Kangaroo Fillet Strips, S, 14.5? alc, McLaren Vale, Sa
Woodlands Cabernet Merlot 2005
93 points $19.95
These days son Stuart Watson, with some quiet advice from others, is turning out a range of reds ranging from single barrel selections to its core business, the latter represented by this fresh and elegant wine. A classic cassis blackcurrant mix, it has silky fine tannins, and restrained alcohol and oak.
Drink Now-2010, with Smoked Rack of Lamb, S, 13.5? alc, Margaret River, WA
Reds Over $20
Whatever else guides my choice of the Top 100, it is not finding the cheapest possible wines; this is true of both the under and over $20 sections. This is a guide to the best value wines across a complete spectrum of prices, the $20 marker being as much a matter of convenience in presentation as it is recognition that for many, more than $20 is a no-go area. However, there are some beautiful wines for the special occasion or birthday to be found here.
Yering Station Shiraz Viognier 2005
96 points $23
Yering Station's Tom Carson is hot on the heels of Clonakilla's Tim Kirk for the number one maker of co-fermented shiraz viognier. Deep but brilliant colour leads into a wine flush with blackberry, cherry and spice lifted by the unmistakable perfume of viognier. Ripe, rounded tannins and immaculate oak complete the parcel.
Drink Now-2020, with Wild Mushroom Ravioli, S, 14.5? alc, Yarra Valley, Vic
Elgo Estate Shiraz 2004
95 points $25
This wine is made from grapes grown on the warmest of the three discrete vineyards on the 389-hectare grazing property of the Taresch family. Deep, bright purple-red, it has rich, fragrant blackberry and spice aromas, the palate absolutely flooded with layers of juicy black fruits, and ripe tannins guaranteeing a very long life.
Drink 2009-2024, with Braised Ox Tail, S, 14.5? alc, Strathbogie Ranges, Vic
d'Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz Viognier 2004
95 points $30
Named for Chester Osborne's daughters when they struggled with 'kookaburra', it is a decidedly upmarket version of 'little critter' wines aimed at the US. Its 6% viognier component provides all the synergies one could hope for, with a vibrant and juicy palate supported by fine tannins as this truly lovely wine runs through to its long finish.
Drink Now-2024, with Medium-Rare Fillet Mignon, C 14.5? alc, McLaren Vale, SA
Glaetzer Bishop Shiraz 2005
94 points $30
A worthy follow-on to the very good '04 version of this wine. Rich black fruits, licorice and mocha intermingle on both the bouquet and palate, augmented by touches of dark chocolate. Excellent texture and structure, plus the controlled use of quality oak, are also features of a bold Barossa style.
Drink 2008-2018, with Olive Oil-Marinated Venison, C, 14.5? alc, Barossa Valley, SA
Peter Howland Parsons River Shiraz 2004
95 points $33
Peter Howland makes single vineyard wines from opposite sides of the continent using a first class honours degree in oenology and winemaking experience from opposite sides of the world. Deeply coloured, medium to full-bodied, it has intense spice and blackberry fruit, firm tannins and a long lingering finish.
Drink 2009-2016, with Kangaroo Fillet, C, 14.5? alc, Hunter Valley, NSW
Chatto Pinot Noir 2005
95 points $35
Jim Chatto is one of Australia's rising stars, possessed of an exceptional palate and outstanding winemaking skills. Primarily a Hunter Valley-based contract winemaker, he reaches far and wide for his own label. Vivid purple-red, waves of plum, blackberry and spice fruit are supported by perfect tannins and quality oak in the background.
Drink Now-2012, with Rare Breast of Squab, S, 13? alc, Hunter Valley, NSW
Howard Park Scotsdale Shiraz 2004
96 points $35
Michael Kerrigan is one of those winemakers who spends as much time in the vineyard as he does in the winery, which pays big dividends. Brightly coloured and clean, this is a super-elegant and refined wine with great length and intensity. Spice and black fruits have absorbed the French oak, the tannins perfect.
Drink Now-2024, with Rib of Veal, S, 14.5? alc, Great Southern, WA
Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
96 points $35
For the record, this has 81% Mount Barker cabernet, 17% Margaret River cabernet, and 2% Margaret River merlot, emphasising the attention to detail in this beautifully crafted wine. Flooded with ripe, gently sweet blackcurrant fruit, it has lovely silky texture and grain on the long palate and finish.
Drink 2009-2024 with Flame-Grilled Lamb Backstrap, S, 14.5? alc, Mount Barker, WA
Norton Estate Arapiles Run Shiraz 2004
95 points $35
Norton Estate is in the Western Victoria Zone, six km north of the Grampians GI boundary, effectively in no man's land. The wine has great colour; rich, ripe blackberry, licorice, spice and pepper aromas and flavours are in abundance, but controlled alcohol helps create finesse.
Drink Now-2016, with Fillet Steak with Green Pepper Sauce, C, 13.8? alc, Western Victoria Zone
Tel (03) 5384 8235
De Bortoli Reserve Pinot Noir 2004
96 points $40
De Bortoli's Reserve range is a relatively new addition to its portfolio, and the wines are made in limited quantities. Clear red-purple, the wine has exceptional mouthfeel, structure and complexity; the plummy fruit has a silky texture, with spicy overtones. It has exemplary line and length, and a great finish.
Drink 2009-2014, with Coq au Vin, C, 13? alc, Yarra Valley, Vic
Turkey Flat Shiraz 2004
95 points $40
Along with Wendouree, one of the most serially underpriced wines on the market, drawing on vines, some dating back to 1847. Deeply coloured, it manages to combine complexity and elegance, and easily carries its slightly elevated alcohol; gently spicy blackberry and plum fruit is supported by a web of fine tannins and subtle French oak.
Drink 2009-2019, with Medium Rare Rib of Beef, C, 15? alc, Barossa Valley, SA
Taltarni Heathcote Shiraz 2004
96 points $44
The (relatively) new team at Taltarni has not hesitated to look beyond the boundaries of its very substantial vineyard holdings in the Pyrenees, including Shiraz from Heathcote. This densely coloured wine has clean blackberry aromas, and is rich, supple and round in the mouth; it is essentially fruit-driven, but the tannins and oak are there, the moderate alcohol sheer pleasure.
Drink 2008-2015, with Beef Provencale, C, 14? alc, Heathcote, Vic
Bremerton Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
96 points $44.95
In February 2004 sisters Rebecca (winemaker) and Lucy (marketing) took over control of the family business, determined to lift its profile (they have). The wine still has great colour; supple and silky smooth flavours of blackcurrant, chocolate and quality oak flow seamlessly across the palate into the finish and aftertaste.
Drink 2007-2017, with Roast Saltbush Lamb, C, 14? alc, Langhorne Creek, SA
Mr Riggs Shiraz 2004
96 points $45
One-time Wirra Wirra winemaker Ben Riggs has his finger in many pies these days as a contract maker and consultant, plus joint ventures, and his own label Mr Riggs. Clean, rich fruit aromas lead into lush red and black fruits with a juicy twist giving lively mouthfeel and a delicious finish.
Drink Now-2014, with Slow-Braised Ox Cheek, P, 15? alc, McLaren Vale, SA
Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2002
96 points $69.95
If this isn't the best St Henri yet, it's so close it doesn't matter. It is a medium-bodied wine which was tailor-made for the very cool conditions and low yields of the top class 2002 vintage; intense, gently savoury, black fruits run imperiously through a long, perfectly balanced palate, finishing with fine tannins, the oak largely unseen.
Drink Now-2020, with Osso Bucco, C, 14.5? alc, Barossa Valley, SA
Wynns Coonawarra Estate Michael Shiraz 2003
95 points $79.99
When the Michael Shiraz was reincarnated after a gap of almost 40 years (the first vintage was the freakishly great 1955) it tended to go over the top. This vintage, while rich, luscious and velvety, is far more restrained, with blackberry and plum fruit woven through quality oak and fine, ripe tannins.
Drink Now-2018, with Hare in Red Wine Sauce, C, 13? alc, Coonawarra, SA
Balnaves of Coonawarra The Tally Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
96 points $80
The many awards given to winemaker Pete Bissell and the polished wines he makes are fully justified. The Tally stands at the very top of the Balnaves tree, with an extra degree of fragrance which most other wines from the vintage (Balnaves included) don't have; similarly, while full-bodied, it also has a unique dimension of elegance. Over time, the high quality French oak will disappear into the wine.
Drink 2009-22025, with Butterfly Leg of Lamb, C, 14.5? alc, Coonawarra, SA
Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz 2004
96 points $100
Within the dictates of the ever-unpredictable summer weather in the Hunter Valley, the style of this icon has been polished over the years, shining brightly in ideal vintages such as 2004. Of brilliant clarity, this medium-bodied wine has perfect texture and structure to its array of black and red cherry fruits, finishing with fine ripe tannins. Carefully judged oak completes a wine of real finesse — and low alcohol.
Drink 2009-2029, with Grilled Calf's Liver, Italian style, S, 12.5? alc, Hunter Valley, NSW
Wolf Blass Black Label Shiraz Cabernet Malbec 2002
96 points $125
This is the 30th vintage of Black Label, which has seen a significant change of style over the years, but which is now better than ever. Very deep in colour, it is flooded with opulent, multi-layered fruits in a silky, sensual, supple texture, with seamless oak and tannins. Released with a choice of cork or screwcap; this note is for the latter version.
Drink Now-2022, with Game Pie, S, 15 alc, Barossa Valley, SA
Penfolds Grange 2001
97 points $400
Grange usually includes a percentage of cabernet sauvignon, as little as 1%. In 1952, '63 and '99 it was 100% shiraz, but from multi regions. The 2001 is the first 100 Barossa shiraz, 50% from the Kalimna Vineyard, a majestic wine still unfolding in bottle, with amazing depth and a sumptuously rich tapestry of black fruits, licorice and chocolate/mocha fruit, oak and tannins as powerful as they should be.
Leave it in the cellar, drink 2011-2030, C, 14.5° alc, Barossa Valley, SA
Australian Sparkling Wines and Champagne
The market for Australian sparkling wine is as competitive as it is for table wines; that prince of sparkling wines, Hardys Arras, costs less today than it did three years ago. This overall group is always a difficult one, the choice of eight Australians and 12 champagnes being traditional but admittedly arbitrary. The striking feature about the 52 champagnes which arrived by the tasting date (another 20 did not, including some of the big names) is the sharp increase in prices for the grand marques, and the proliferation of small producers with wines at prices not far from the NVs of some of the grand marques.
Kamberra Meeting Place 2004
89 points; $15
A blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier grown in the cold climate of Tumbarumba. The relative youth of the wine is part of its entirely fruit-driven charm; the bouquet has fragrant lemon zest and spice aromas and the fresh, crisp and long palate is a seamless replay of those aromas. Another instance of Master sparkling winemaker Ed Carr pulling the right strings.
Gapsted Ballerina Canopy Chardonnay Pinot NV
94 points $30
This is one from left field, but a very good one. It has fine and persistent mousse, with gently creamy surroundings for the nectarine and citrus fruit courtesy of three years on yeast lees prior to disgorgement. The complex regional and varietal sources have produced a very elegant and perfectly balanced wine. Here the skill is that of Michael Cope-Williams, whose father's eponymous winery is in the Macedon Ranges.
Macedon Ranges, King Valley and Tumbarumba
Yarrabank Cuvee 2001
94 points; $35
The wine spends four years on yeast lees prior to disgorgement, and none of the components of pinot noir and chardonnay undergo malolactic fermentation,. Aanother year in bottle after disgorgement completinges the maturation process. It has excellent mousse, then a nuts-and-brioche backdrop to a pure and long fruit line;. Pperfectly balanced acidity ensures great length.
Domaine Chandon Vintage Brut 2003
95 points; $37
Has 49% chardonnay, 46% pinot noir and 5% pinot meunier grown in six regions in southern Victoria and in Tasmania, with 30 separate parcels of base wines blended, the aged on lees for 30 months prior to disgorgement. Fragrant aromas of fresh citrus and brioche lead into a gently nutty/creamy palate with citrus and melon fruit.
Domaine Chandon ZD Blanc de Blancs 2003
94 points; $37
This takes sparkling winemaking back to deceptive simplicity: zero dosage when disgorged after 30 months on lees, and 100% chardonnay as the varietal base. Bright straw green, with fine, persistent mousse and great balance, it flies in the face of the belief that zero dosage can only work with aged wines.
Stonier Cuvee 2000
94 points $45
A chardonnay and pinot noir-based wine of restraint and delicacy not often encountered in mainland Australian sparkling wines. Pale green-straw, it has particularly good mousse; overall, it is very tight and fine, the crystalline purity emphasised by thet eh low dosage, the flavours in the citrus (rather than the red fruit) range. It will benefit from further time on cork — say five years.
Hardys Arras Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2000
96 points $49
This quite beautiful wine sits firmly at the top of the Hardys sparkling wine tree, although the lower price than the first vintages (1995 and '96) shows how competitive the market is. Pale green-straw, it is marked by the precision of the bouquet, and the explosively intense palate ranging through the mineral, nectarine, green apple and citrus flavours; a remarkable combination of power and grace.
Primo Estate Joseph Sparkling Red
95 points; $50
As usual, has a portion of reserve wine dating back to the 1960s and '70s, and spent two years on lees prior to its recent disgorgement. Has massively complex confit plum, spice and licorice aromas, then a very rich multi-flavoured palate, some oak phenolics neatly balanced by moderate dosage. It is hard to imagine a more complex wine in this style.
Pierre Gimmonet Gastronome Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs 2000
94 points $60
Gimmonet is a chardonnay-only producer in Cuis with family ownership of vineyards dating back to 1750, and winemaking since 1935. Old vines and low yields reduce the need for chaptalisation, particularly in vintages such as this. Firm, crisp and seriously tangy citrus and nectarine fruit run through a long and fine palate.
Imported by Vintage Cellars
Contact Jeremy Stockman
Tel (03) 9829 4675
Pol Roger Brut Reserve NV
94 points $70
For decades one of Australia's (myself included) favourite Champagne Houses, the stye as distinctive in its own way as (say) Bolliinger is in its very different way. Equal parts of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier produce a delicate yet complex wine with ripe apple, citrus and brioche in perfect balance with each other, and neither needing nor repaying cellaring. Value plus.
Imported by Negociants Australia
Contact David LeMire
Tel (08) 8112 4200
Jacquesson Cuvee 730 NV
95 points $75
The cuvee number changes each year, and precise details of each cuvee are supplied on the back label. Thus 60% of the wine comes from the 2002 vintage, 40% from multi-vintage older reserves, the varietal base 48% chardonnay, 32% pinot noir and 20% pinot meuniere. It has distinct bronze tinges to the colour, and immediate complexity on the bouquet, then a fluid cascade of perfectly ripened fruits, allied with nutty brioche notes, running through the finish and aftertaste.
Imported by Cellarhand
Contact Patrick Walsh
Tel (03) 9418 7800
Ayala Brut Nature Zero Dosage NV
95 points $80
A more than welcome return to Australia for this brand with a string of impressive wines after ownership passed to Bollinger in 2005. This is 67% pinot noir, 26% chardonnay and 7% pinot meunier sourced from a mix of Grand and Premier Cru vineyards, and spent three years on lees prior to disgorgement in January 2006. It is a remarkably complex, potent and concentrated wine, with layers of flavour; notwithstanding the absence of dosage (sweetening), is a food style, rather than aperitif.
Imported by Fine Wine Partners
Contact Fiona McDonald
Tel (02) 8335 8016
Piper Heidsieck Millesime 1996
95 points $90
Why this wine is still available, and at a price slightly less than last year, is a mystery to me, but I decided not to look in its mouth. A blend of 70% pinot noir and 30% chardonnay, it is showing why this will be such a long-lived vintage. Still very fragrant, there is great clarity to the apple and nectarine fruit of the silky, supple palate, the finish fresh and perfectly balanced.
Imported by Maxxium Australia
Contact Carolyn Mindham
Tel (02) 9418 5000
Ayala Millesime Brut 1998
96 points $100
Shows just why Bollinger was not only prepared to buy Ayala, but also to position it alongside Bollinger as a sister company. The pinot noir (80%) comes from Mareuil Sur Ayl, the highest-ranked Premier Cru village, the chardonnay (20%) from Mesnil, Oger and Cremant, all Grand Cru vineyards. It spent eight years on lees, and is a seriously lovely wine, with an abundance of brioche and stone fruit flavours on the mid-palate, then a lingering, fine dry finish.
Imported by Fine Wine Partners
Contact Fiona McDonald
Tel (02) 8335 8016
Devaux Cuvee D Rosee NV
95 points $110
Devaux (the French partner of Yering Station with Yarrabank) is rated by leading Champagne expert Tom Stevenson as the best, fastest-moving and most innovative co-operative in Champagne. This is 75% pinot noir, 25% chardonnay, with part of the pinot added as red wine. Pale salmon, it is elegant and fine, with beautiful clarity of expression, finishing with lingering citrussy acidity. It is an ideal aperitif style.
Imported by Yering Station
Contact Tiffyn Smillie
Tel (03) 9730 0114
Louis Roederer Brut 1999
95 points $125
Famous for its Cristal (not submitted this year) and for the fact that 80% of its grapes come from its own vineyards, a higher percentage than any other of the Grand Marque Houses. This wine (two-thirds chardonnay, one-third pinot noir) is in the particularly welcoming, user-friendly style of Louis Roederer; gently ripe stone fruit is seamlessly woven through with creamy brioche/toast nuances, the balance as impeccable as ever, the finish long and lasting.
Imported by Red + White
Contact Sally Mcgill
Tel (08) 8232 9455
Billecart-Salmon Rose NV
96 points $138
The relentlessly rising price of Billecart Rose reflects the view of the marketplace that — with the exception of the roses of Krug, Dom Perignon and Veuve Clicquot — this is the best rose going around (and the most reliable). Its accessibility stems in part from its composition of one-third each (give or take a bit) of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, and in part from fastidious winemaking. Salmon-pink, it is full of vibrant fruit flavours ranging through strawberry and citrus, its length not the least inhibited by the purity and delicacy of its structure.
Imported by Domaine Wine Shippers
Contact Gary Steel
Tel (03) 9878 7848
Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Millenaires 1995
96 points $170
Not everyone (notably Tom Stevenson) is as taken by this wine as I am, but then I also know I am not alone in putting this somewhere in the same league as Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs. Both are testaments to the longevity of 100% chardonnay-based champagnes, and to the finesse they can achieve. Green-straw, it has perfect line, length and focus to its stone fruit and gently creamy palate, the finish brilliantly clear and refreshing. A glass of this wineBlanc de Millenaires is never enough.
Imported by Maxxium Australia
Contact Carolyn Mindham
Tel (02) 9418 5000
Lanson Noble Cuvee Blanc de Blancs 1997
96 points $190
So far as I know, this was the first vintage with a Blanc de Blancs version of Noble Cuvee, perhaps because 1997 was a particularly good vintage for chardonnay, less so the other varieties. This is a super-fine and elegant wine, its clarity enhanced by the suppression of the malolactic fermentation, which in turn makes the sweet citrus and nectarine fruit flavours all the more remarkable. It is at once delicate yet intense and vibrant, and has a bell-clear aftertaste.
Imported by Champagne Lanson
Contact Richard Goodman
Tel (07) 5527 2768
Krug Rose NV
97 points $450
As scarce as hen's teeth, and tailor-made for the person who has (almost) everything. As with all the Krug wines, pinot meunier (albeit as a junior partner) sits alongside the dominant pinot noir, with a lesser amount of chardonnay. Likewise, it is an impossibly complex blend of aged reserve wines (from up to 10 vintages) and base wine of the blending year. Bronze-salmon, it marries finesse with all the traditional Krug complexity: biscuit, red fruits and brioche, then a stupendously fine finish and aftertaste.
Imported by Moet-Hennessy Australia
Contact Allia Rizvi
(02) 8344 9900